Kelli Ward is running for Senate in Arizona, hoping to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R) when his seat becomes empty, and she was proud to share her first major endorsement by the Arizona Monitor.
Unfortunately for Ward, however, she fell victim to something President Donald Trump is constantly warning about: fake news. Only this time, the term actually fit the publication.
On Oct. 28, she posted a link on her campaign website and blasted out a Facebook post, quoting extensively from a column in the Arizona Monitor.
Despite its reputable sounding name, the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site. It is an anonymous, pro-Ward blog that has referred to her primary opponent Martha McSally as “Shifty McSally,” frequently blasted Flake and, at the top of its home page, proclaims its mission as “Striking Fear into the Heart of the Establishment.” The site launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement, and its domain registration is hidden, masking the identity of its owner. On its Facebook page, it is classified as a news site, but scant other information is offered.
According to Ward's campaign, the candidate is in no way connected to the Arizona Monitor and has no idea who might be behind it.
Seemingly nobody in Arizona politics knows who runs the Monitor. Political strategists in the state — including those from Flake, McSally and John McCain’s camps — told POLITICO that they could only scratch their heads. Other local bloggers were equally befuddled.
“We’re all trying to figure out who that is,” said Ally Miller, an elected official in Pima County.
Fake news has become a real problem facing Americans, and not everyone is as watchful or skilled when it comes to determining which sites are credible. It would behoove politicians and campaign organizers to do their due diligence in deciding which publications are worth sharing on social media.
Posting links from dubious, unknown sources is unethical, according to Charles Glasser, the former global media counsel for Bloomberg News and currently adjunct professor of media law and ethics at New York University. By steering readers to the Monitor, Ward conferred legitimacy on the site, he said.
Ward's campaign spokesman, Zachery Henry, said he does not believe the campaign acted unethically:
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I don’t think sharing an article that’s favorable to you, especially when there are no inaccuracies or factual issues in it, associates us with the writer or the paper. Because we share stuff all the time, from the Arizona Republic all the way down the list.”